Sarah Palin and the Power of Myth

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In the wake of the passage of federal health-care reform, Arizona Sen. John McCain started off last week with a promise to stop working with Democrats for the rest of the year, even if he thought the legislation was the right thing to do.

Way to put country first, John.

He ended the week by reuniting with former running mate Sarah Palin, the gal he plucked from the obscurity of Alaska and transformed into a GOP superstar. It was the first time they’d hung out since McCain’s staff told her she couldn’t do her own concession speech on Election Day 2008.

Dressed in a sassy leather motorcycle jacket, Palin attracted thousands of Republicans to the Pima County Fairgrounds.

McCain got to bask in her glow, but the coverage underscored by our senior senator’s central problem as he campaigns against former congressman and radio talk-show host J.D. Hayworth in the August GOP primary. The New York Times noted that five out of six attendees interviewed at the fairgrounds loved Sarah—but they weren’t so sure about McCain.

If facts mattered, McCain’s history would make him the kind of Republican that Palin would normally campaign against—and in order to build him up, she had to present an image of him that was in stark opposition to reality. (But then again, Palin’s a specialist at that sort of thing.)

Myth One: Palin told the crowd they needed to “send the maverick back to the United States Senate.” But the maverick John McCain—the guy who used to support cap-and-trade policies to fight global warming and opposed the Bush administration’s tax cuts on the basis that they would bust the budget—has given way to an ill-tempered old-timer who just wants to find a comfy stall inside today’s GOP stable.

Myth Two: Palin joked that McCain’s maverick ways “haven’t always won him friends in the Washington, D.C., elite machine.” But if anyone was friendly with the media elite and Democrats in Washington, it was McCain, who used to refer to the press as “my base.” How many